A $12 million project in the high desert of central Oregon is saving lives – of people and the wildlife that inhabit this popular recreational area.
Oregon DOT is adding lanes on busy U.S. 97, which runs from the state’s northern border with Washington to its southern border with California. Part of this project includes building under-crossings, where wildlife is funneled by extensive fencing to cross under the highway. Studies show the only other under-crossing the state has – also on U.S. 97 – has reduced wildlife-vehicle crashes by as much as 95%.
“There are a lot of animals that rely on crossing this highway and to funnel them through the under-crossing is going to be wonderful,” said Oregon Department of Fish and Wildife’s Sarah Gregory.
Mule deer are the primary focus of the project because they need to move from the high country in the Cascades to the high desert in the fall and back again during the spring. But cameras have also caught elk, foxes, raccoons and even bears using the safe passages.
“It’s going to help reduce wildlife and vehicle collisions and that’s a good thing,” said Oregon DOT Wildlife Passage Coordinator Cidney Bowman. The project – which will undoubtedly save lives of all kinds – is expected to be completed in 2020.